USA (MNN) — The El Nino phenomenon has unleashed a rampage over the last few weeks.
From a freakish mid-winter heatwave, blizzards, and tornadoes, to Winter Storm Goliath, the aftermath is just beginning to unfold. In the Midwest, cleanup has just begun as the swollen Mississippi River continues to push downstream.
Flooding has touched or will touch at least 13 states and is expected to continue for weeks as the waters make their way south. Mark Lewis coordinates Disaster Response for ReachGlobal, an arm of the Evangelical Free Church of America.
He explains the scope of the problem: Winter Storm Goliath displaced thousands in Missouri, southern Illinois, eastern Oklahoma, and Arkansas. ”They’re starting to now get into the clean-up mode, recovery mode, as some of the waters have receded; and yet, further downstream, there are areas that are just preparing and still sandbagging.”
In fact, as Urbana 15 was taking place in St. Louis, MO, other communities just outside the urban area were frantically trying to minimize water damage. “In Franklin County, one of our churches, the community that it serves, the crest was three feet higher than anything previously recorded. That’s immense, from an historic flood standpoint.” Lewis notes that “especially in poorer areas, many people cannot afford flood insurance, so these kinds of floods can be especially devastating.
“There aren’t the financial resources to recover physically.”
Three feet higher than a previous recorded flood may not sound all that bad. However, Lewis says, “In some of the locations, the homes are being flooded up to the rooftop level. That’s everything in your house being underwater for some period of hours or days.”
If you’ve never survived a flood, here’s what happens: ”It doesn’t take water very long to just soak in and ruin everything. Even when you just have just two or three feet of water in your home, it’s going to destroy all your furniture; walls are going to need to be ripped out, electrical wiring.”
What’s more, it’s January. Flooding that hit the Midwest hit in December. Although there were a few days of warmer-than-normal temperatures, the freeze has hit now. “You get concerns with foundations and differential settlement with freezing and thawing that’s introduced, so it just adds another dimension.”
Trying to dry out in damp, wet conditions and limited sun drags out the recovery process, as opposed to a summer flood, notes Lewis. At least in the summer, “You can get drying weather and warm temperatures in which to work.”
In the Midwest, people are starting to try to figure out how bad the damage is. Lewis says some of their partner churches have been rolling up their sleeves and digging in. They’re doing everything from sandbagging in areas with rising water to dragging out inventory from stores, to helping the homeowner sort through what’s salvageable.
“The opportunity to be a blessing and to be of service to one another, and to work side-by-side with people from all walks of life and all different cultural backgrounds, to reach out and care for those that have a need: that, in-and-of itself, is an incredibly blessing and healing process.”
ReachGlobal is still figuring out what their response will be, but in the meantime, Lewis is asking you to pray that the local churches would “reach out to share the love of Christ, to tangibly demonstrate the Gospel, and to see real transformation happen as relationships are built.” They’ll be organizing teams to help for the short-term emergency and the long-term one, years down the line. To that end, “be praying, especially for one-on-one conversations that represent hope, healing, light, and truth. That really becomes the most transformational thing–from the initial days of cleanup, through the long process of rebuilding.”